McCue v. Bradstreet, No. 14-1922 (1st Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
Plaintiff, a Maine dairy farmer, had a business dispute with Defendant, his neighbor, and the former Commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture (DOA). Soon after taking office, the Commissioner recused himself from regulatory matters involving Plaintiff. The DOA eventually took four adverse regulatory actions against Plaintiff, including the action of ceasing to protect Plaintiff from the regulatory authority of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The DEP then issued several notices of violation of Plaintiff’s license conditions. As a result, the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began administrative and judicial proceedings against Plaintiff that resulted in Plaintiff losing his farm. Plaintiff brought this suit for damages against Defendant, claiming that Defendant had violated his First Amendment rights through the adverse actions taken by the DOA. The district court awarded summary judgment against Plaintiff. The First Circuit reversed in part, holding (1) summary judgment was correctly granted with respect tot he three adverse regulatory actions that the DOA was alleged to have taken after the Commissioner’s purported recusal; but (2) there was a genuine issue of material fact with respect to whether the Commissioner’s retaliatory intent was a substantial or motivating factor in the one alleged adverse action that occurred prior to the recusal. Remanded.